Thuistezien 233 — 12.04.2021
On October 25th, 2015, West and Rewire premiered their now long standing collaboration, ‘Musical Material’ in West’s location on the Groenewegje, the Hague. Musical Material is a series of talks and performances allowing artist’s a chance to dialogue about their practice while also showcasing their artistic ideas in action. For the first edition, Barcelona based ‘mentasmic’ computer musician Roc Jiménez De Cisneros shared the stage with Amsterdam based ‘resolution artist’, Rosa Menkman who focuses on visual noise artefacts.
De Cisneros begins the event with a lecture outlining his continual fascination with holes, and the inherent problems our society has with defining them. His Spanish dictionary’s definition, when translated to English amounts to, ‘a more or less round opening in a thing’. The holes in this definition are beyond obvious, therefore De Cisneros’s interest in holes lead him to research philosophical attempts at describing this elusive yet everyday phenomenon. These form a basis for the concept of holes which De Cisneros then superimposes into his artistic field, namely music. Music, as he alludes to, in materialistic terms is the sequencing of individual sonic events in time, each having their beginning and end. Silence, or what De Cisneros essentially defines as a hole in music, is an inherent and fundamental part of music. De Cisneros claims that traditional, classical music notation doesn’t have the capability of notating silence, or the absence of sound. And this after acknowledging John Cage’s piece 4’34” which is literally only notated silence. Not to mention the basic musical notation elements called ‘rests’ which indicate a silence, or absence of playing, as well as the rhythmical aspect of standard notation. Nevertheless, the mental excursion into the concept of holes and what constitutes one, as well as how De Cisneros will translate this to music is intriguing.
Following this ontology of holes is Amsterdam based Rosa Menkman with a performative lecture exploring the technological standards of digital images, particularly jpeg, humanising the digital processes behind them to make this world relatable and more accessible to the average person. Menkman reads a fictional account from the diary of a ‘DCT’ (Discrete Cosine Transform), an algorithm used to describe a finite set of patterns, called macroblocks, which could be described as the 64 characters making up the jpeg image, showing the different elements of their inhabited space and existence, which is projected as an abstract 3d environment behind her. The final layer is a noise-like sound that Menkman explains to be the sounds discarded during mp3 compression. After presenting these ideas, De Cisneros joins her on stage for a conversation about the concept of standards, what they are and how they shape all aspects of our interactions with the world we live in. Standards create the implied boundaries of our world and our technology. For instance, there is no reason, apart from convenience and standardisation that electronic screens should have four corners, or even be rectangular. This is one standard that is so common today, it is difficult to really imagine any other possibility. Menkman implores us to consider the potential realities, or consequences of a non-standardised world, even if only as a mental exercise.
Finally, the event concludes with a performance by De Cisneros where we hear how he translates holes into music. Starting from a loud evolving electronic sound, De Cisneros introduces small silences into this sound at different intervals or timings. Perhaps also adding other sounds, though it is difficult to distinguish as the initial sound could also be evolving. Visually, the room is dark while blue lines morphing into different shapes are projected behind the stage he departed from to sit near the mixer on his laptop, presumably changing something in the music. Without De Cisneros’ talk regarding holes, I personally would never have associated this music and holes. Though perhaps that is the beauty of Musical Material, giving the audience a chance to glance into the thought processes of artists.
Text: Hendrik Hohlfeld